Does Yoga Build Strength?

Yoga is a great way to build your strength training power.
Photo by: Eva Katalin Kondoros, Getty Images

Have you ever considered yoga as part of your strength training routine? If not, think again. Yoga takes strength. No, yoga builds strength. Yoga combines the strength training power of the mind-body connection with the ability to push, move, and hold your body weight. It’s time to re-think yoga as a strength building power. Any good fitness program will look a little like a three-legged stool:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

You need all three to hold everything in balance. Often, yoga gets slotted into the category of flexibility and rightly so. Yoga teaches and trains the body to stretch, and it opens muscles and connective tissue helping you to move better and feel better. Practicing yoga regularly will increase your flexibility. But yoga is also a vehicle to stronger muscles from head-to-toe.

Upper Body

Yogis can tell you that a significant amount of time during yoga class is spent on your arms. Planks, down dogs, chaturanga, and up dogs all challenge the biceps, triceps, shoulder, chest, and back muscles. And we’re not talking two or three sets here, my friend. These poses are repeated multiple times during one session, so muscular endurance grows by leaps and bounds.

Lower Body

Chair pose in yoga is another name for a squat. Crescents and warrior poses are lunges in disguise. Yup, yoga is a lower body activity as well.

Hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps are held in isometric holds over and over again. Isometric strength training is a powerful way to train muscles without putting stress on joints. The balance poses in yoga work these muscles as well as the lower legs and ankles as they fight to stabilize your body and hold you in place.


Yoga is filled with core training from beginning to end. Literally. Yoga starts and ends with breath, bringing attention to the center of your body. From there, core engagement is the heart and soul of each and every pose. Holding a plank is all core strength. Standing in a balance position originates from the core. In order to avoid tipping over in a crescent lunge, one must pull in at the core. This, along with the stretching, is why so many people report relief from back pain when they started a regular yoga routine.

Where Do I Start?

It’s always a good time to try yoga. As stated previously, the physical benefits are vast, but the benefits reach far beyond the physical. If you’re brand new to yoga, check out our Yoga For Beginners Guide. If you can’t get to a class, just give it a go at home.

Now, let’s break down the best poses to practice when it comes to working on strength.

For Upper Body Strength:

  • Plank Pose: The king of the core postures is also a pose that strengthens the chest, bicep, shoulders, and arms.
  • Chaturanga: Covering a multitude of upper body muscles, practicing this pose will strengthen your triceps better than anything else available.
  • Down Dog: Strengthening your upper back without equipment is a challenge. This pose will definitely work on that.
  • Up Dog: As you press through your arms, your shoulders and upper back are engaged.

For Lower Body Strength:

  • Bridge Pose: You might shake a little, but this pose will get right to the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Crescent Lunge: Targeting the glutes and legs, this pose will also stabilize your core.
  • Warrior 1: Besides opening your hips, this pose will strengthen them as well.
  • Chair Pose: Even though it sounds relaxing, it’s not. Chair pose will engage the entire lower body at one time.

For Your Core:

  • Boat Pose: No rocking the boat on this one. Hold still and tighten your core and you will find it stronger on the other side.
  • Side Plank Pose: Let’s not leave out the obliques! Side plank is known for targeting the waistline along with the shoulders.
  • Reverse Plank: The backside is just as important as the front side when it comes to core training. Make sure you try this out see how it supports your low back strength.
  • Windshield Wiper:  Combining all the core muscles, this is a moving pose that simulates the kind of core strength you get in Pilates. You’ll feel it whittling your waistline away.

Continue Reading